I’m not sure if there’s anything that will lead to burn-out and all-around homeschooling misery faster than trying to use a curriculum you just don’t like.
There were a lot of mistakes I made early on in our homeschooling journey that nearly derailed our efforts, (actually did derail them for a while,) but one of the biggest blunders I made was forcing myself to use a curriculum that wasn’t working and was boring me to tears.
So why did I do it? Why did I continue to use a curriculum that wasn’t the right fit for our family?
For the same reasons I see so many other homeschooling moms doing the same thing.
It was all I knew. When I first began homeschooling, I was only familiar with two homeschooling curriculum companies. Two. There might have been another one or two I had heard of–maybe–but I had never seen them or personally heard of anyone using them. I should have done more research, of course, but at the time I was only intending to homeschool temporarily anyway, so there seemed little point in trying to learn about other curricula, especially when…
The curriculum I was using was supposedly the be-all, end-all. Time and time again I had been told that this curriculum was all I needed to see my child excel. It was thorough. It was rigorous. It was tried and proven.
Yeah, and it was also dull. And tedious. And cram-packed with busywork. And not at all designed for one-on-one instruction with a dyslexic/LPD child.
And yet having been assured so many times that this curriculum was the key to learning success, I felt like I was the problem, that the failure was with me, or even with my daughter. Because it couldn’t be the curriculum, right? Everybody insisted it was the best out there!
But I quickly learned that many of the people who touted it so devotedly also knew next to nothing about any alternatives. Most of them knew about the same two curriculum companies I knew about, and so they chose what they considered the better of the two, meaning of course that…
I didn’t know anyone who did things differently. Every homeschooler I had ever known up to that point used a homeschooling curriculum with a very traditional approach. I had never known anything but public school myself, so a traditional-type curriculum seemed safe and easy.
And even as I came to learn about other methods, it was still traditional homeschooling that seemed most acceptable to others. Charlotte Mason? Who is that? Narration? What are you talking about? Interest-led learning? Are you serious? You mean your kids don’t read and answer questions on worksheets? Isn’t that what school’s supposed to be? How do you really know they’re learning anything?
But I never felt more satisfied in my homeschool than when I ditched a strictly traditional approach and began exploring other methods and forms of curricula. I had become bound to what we were using–to its methods and its structure and to the sense of acceptance it offered. Breaking free of it liberated our homeschool and my children’s learning in some amazing ways.
(And I realize I sound very anti-traditional homeschooling. In our home, I am, except for those areas and subjects where I can’t seem to get around it. I’m very biased against traditional methods and I can’t keep it from bleeding through in my writing. I don’t mean to imply, however, that a traditional approach can’t work exceptionally well for some people.)
I will be the first to tell you that a poor curriculum choice is not at the core of every homeschooling problem. In fact, I would say attitude, (more often ours than our children’s,) is the biggest culprit when it comes to dissatisfaction in our homeschooling.
But sometimes a well-intentioned, but misguided devotion to a certain curriculum is at the heart of our problems, and an unwillingness to change only drives the hopelessness of it deeper. On multiple occasions I’ve talked to moms who weren’t happy in their homeschooling and when it wasn’t an issue of attitude, it almost always came down to a curriculum they just didn’t like.
Making a poor curriculum choice doesn’t doom your homeschool, but refusing to make a change when a change might be needed very well could.
So here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself if you fear you’ve become a slave to your homeschooling curriculum.
Do my children and I enjoy this curriculum?
Now hold on! I’m not trying to imply you should be giddy with excitement every day as you pull out your homeschooling curriculum, but you shouldn’t be groaning in misery every time either. If it’s horribly boring or the workload seems extreme or the assignments are nonsensical, and this is the case all the time, then maybe a change would be refreshing. And, remember, sometimes a curriculum change in just one subject can make a world of difference!
Am I using this curriculum because it’s a good fit for my family, or for other reasons?
Think about it. Did you pick this curriculum because you’re scared to try any other? Not a good reason. Are you using it because you thought it would require the least effort on your part? Also probably not a good reason. Because it looked the most like public school materials? Bad reason. Because you’re afraid your former-public-school-teacher mother-in-law will disapprove of any other? Really bad reason.
Your curriculum choices should be based on what works best for you and your children and what seems best suited to their individual learning styles, not necessarily on what’s most familiar, what’s easiest, or what will be most acceptable to others.
Are there ways I can tweak this curriculum to make it work better for us?
You don’t understand, Tanya! I spent $300 on this curriculum! I can’t just pitch it!
Okay, okay, I understand. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of a curriculum that has required a hefty investment. Or sometimes you know what you have isn’t working, but you need more time to research and find something that will.
It’s often possible to make changes to a curriculum you have already, to make it more user-friendly, whether that means adding in or taking out assignments, doing more things orally, on or off the computer, or in a different order or at a different pace.
Am I controlling this curriculum, or is it controlling me?
Some curricula allow for little or no wiggle room where preference or personal learning style is concerned: You have to do it all and you have to do it all a certain way. Period. The inflexibility of that can be overwhelming.
There are other curricula than can be tweaked easily, but yet getting past that feeling you’re somehow breaking the rules by making changes can be a big challenge to overcome, even when you feel the changes you’re making are better for yourself and for your children.
But keep in mind that one of the greatest beauties of homeschooling is the ability to custom design your kids’ education, to tailor it to meet their needs and to inspire and challenge further learning. While most homeschooling curriculum companies are interested in doing that as well, they also lack the specific knowledge to do it with your child individually. That’s up to YOU, which means always laboring to control your curriculum for the good of your child, rather than controlling your child, your routine, and your own preferences for the sake of a curriculum.
Most homeschoolers are wrapping up their homeschool year. Have you felt enslaved by a curriculum that wasn’t working for your family? What did you do? Ditch the curriculum, or tweak it to work better for your family?